NBA At 2: Is Rudy Gay Expendable?
By: Bill Ingram Last Updated: 4/25/11 12:43 PM ET | 3800 times read
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Normally, when a team's best player sustains a season-ending injury, it spells the end of that team's playoff hopes. In the case of the Memphis Grizzlies, when Rudy Gay suffered a shoulder injury that would wind up costing him the balance of the season, their quest for a playoff berth seemed far-fetched at least. After all, not only has he carried the franchise player label for Memphis, he was also having one of the best years of his career before getting hurt.
Some players feel like they can slack off a bit after signing a new long-term contract, but not Rudy Gay. In his 54 games played in 2010-11 he averaged 19.8 points per game - second best of his career - while shooting career-bests of 47% from the field, 50% from three, and 81% from the free throw line. He was also having his best year on the defensive end of the court, and his defensive improvement inspired his teammates to elevate their intensity, as well.
When Gay went down just before the All-Star break, the Grizzlies knew they would need some help if they were going to make the playoffs. Replacing a player of Gay's stature is no small task, but the Grizzlies were able to use Hasheem Thabeet to land Shane Battier from the Houston Rockets, a move that solidified the Grizzlies' playoff hopes and now has them up 2-1 in their first round series with the San Antonio Spurs. Battier is known as an intangibles guy, but it was his three-pointer that gave the Grizzlies their first-ever playoff win in Game 1, and he's been an integral part of helping the Grizzlies take an unlikely lead in the series.
There are two ways to look at the Grizzlies' success in the wake of Gay's injury. First, imagine how good they might be with this team in place and Gay on the floor, as well. They might just jump into the category of contenders. Unfortunately, there is another side to be considered, as well.
One of the primary reasons why the Grizzlies made the playoffs and have provided more than a challenge for San Antonio is their front court duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Few teams have the luxury of such a one-two punch up front, and the Grizzlies are going to have to pony up some dough to keep that duo in place going forward. They've already extended Randolph, and the word is they'll re-sign Gasol, as well. They can go over the salary cap to re-sign their own player, but historically the Grizzlies have been reluctant to spend over the cap. They're already committed to roughly $53 million for next season, and that's with Battier and Gasol both off the books. Considering the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is likely to come with an even lower salary cap than this season's $58 million, it hard to see how the Grizzlies can keep Gasol, who will likely command in excess of $10 million per season, and still stay under the cap.
Unless they deal Rudy Gay.
One of the issues the Grizzlies faced for much of the season was that they simply didn't have enough help coming off the bench. The addition of Battier changed that, but if Battier is allowed to walk away it leaves a significant hole in the second unit . . .one the Grizzlies won't have money to fill. Considering the team played some of their best basketball of the season without Rudy, it makes a great deal of sense to consider trading him as a way of shoring up the second unit for an even deeper playoff run.
Grizzlies fans have to get goose bumps just thinking about how good their current team would be if gay were healthy. They're pushing the West's best regular-season team to the brink without their primary catalyst, so imagine how good they might be with Gay in the mix. Still, there is the financial aspect to be considered, and for a conservative team like Memphis it might just be that trading Rudy Gay to keep Gasol, Battier, and add a couple of other pieces might just be the way to go.
What's your take? Time for the Grizzlies to go for the gusto, forget about the cap and make a strong run? Or should they cash in their Rudy Gay chip and bring back 2-3 pieces to shore up their second unit? Drop your comments into the comments section below!
i forgave him for that dumb barbados comment on twitter